Speedy Penguins take fast lane to Stanley Cup title

Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:38pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Penguins started the season as a team without an identity and ended the campaign as Stanley Cup champions after a 4-2 series win over the San Jose Sharks in the NHL's best-of-seven final.

While the Penguins, who clinched their first Stanley Cup since 2009 on Sunday, can once again be called champions of the National Hockey League their identity is "speed."

At the start of the season the Penguins, tipped as a Stanley Cup contender, ran more like a station wagon than a Ferrari as they sputtered through the first 28 games with a 15-10-3 record.

Head coach Mike Sullivan, brought in during a mid-season shakeup to replace Mike Johnson, harnessed that horsepower and put a gameplan in place to maximize that blazing speed.

Speed was always a part of the Penguins' genetic makeup with captain Sidney Crosby and puck-moving defenseman Kris Letang at the core.

However, general manager Jim Rutherford gave the Pittsburgh another gear by acquiring high-octane parts such as Phil Kessel in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carl Hagelin, one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, from the Anaheim Ducks.

With Sullivan at the wheel of the high-performance lineup, the Penguins found themselves back on the road to the Stanley Cup playoffs culminating in Sunday's 3-1 Game Six win.

"The one thing we tried to do was create an identity and establish an identity," explained Sullivan. "I thought as the head coach, it was my responsibility to direct that.   Continued...

Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan addresses the media during media day a day prior to game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final at the CONSOL Energy Center.  Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports